Porsche 911 hero: Arno Bohn
Bohn’s stay at Porsche was both short and controversial, but the CEO would contribute significantly to the saving of the 911 – and company at large.
Bohn only worked at Porsche for two years between 1990 and 1992, and many will remember those tumultuous 24 months for the overseeing of a stillborn 989 project, as well as notable motorsport failings including heavy spending for an ultimately fruitless F1 venture. However, Bohn’s contribution to the history of Porsche is significant if short, and more enthusiasts should do well to remember this.
Bohn arrived at Porsche with no professional experience in the automotive industry, let alone at Zuffenhausen, his only tie to the company being the purchase of a 2.4E back in 1974. He’d call in annually at Porscheplatz for a service on the way to amassing 75,000km in his middle-range 911.
Nevertheless, Bohn was approached by the Porsche family in 1989 to take over an ailing company which was being hammered by poor sales and a tumbling Dollar. The 911 model of the time, the 964, lacked a Turbo model, and though the 993 was already in development, there were serious misgivings about the long-term feasibility of the air-cooled flat six, which was expensive to make. The 964 lineup would flourish under Bohn, in terms of models if not outstanding sales, and the later 993 – released after Bohn’s departure – would realise the full potential of an air-cooled 911, but Bohn’s legacy stretched much further ahead than even that. From the outset, Bohn recognised the fact that Porsche needed a smaller and lower-cost sports car, much like the 912, to boost sales and create meaningful profits. Moreover, production of Porsche’s cars needed to be harmonised: the transaxle cars were built 50km away in Neckarsulm, while the 911 line was retained at Zuffenhausen. This setup only added to the company’s expenditure, which were more bruising amid a period of poor sales. Bohn’s solution was to build two cars, both the 911 and an entry-level sports car, on the same platform, with its start date mooted for 1996. The embryonic 996/986 platform idea was duly conceived, and Bohn’s idea would prevail in rather handsome fashion. The shared 911/Boxster line streamlined costs while the new water-cooled 911 would comfortably outsell the 993, a move which saved the company from financial ruin.
Bohn had departed Porsche five years prior to the start of 996 production, but it was his vision which quite literally set the wheels in motion, and put Porsche on a path to automotive redemption. His tenure at Zuffenhausen might have been short, but by virtue of the fact the company still exists today, Bohn’s contribution to Porsche and its 911 was certainly sweet.